Posted by: Googie | June 1, 2010

Bookstore Buddies

I was going to travel through Colombia for almost a month, but I had no clue where I was going or what I was going to do there. Since I could not find any softcopies of guides to Colombia, I thought I’d go to a bookshop and buy myself a second-hand copy of any guidebook that I could find.

The first shop I went to was called “The English Bookstore”, and was run by an old man who didn’t have the guidebook I was looking for but had a piece of advice for me. He said, “What I have learnt over the years is that you’re more likely to find something you need when you’re simply walking along looking at things, than when you’re actually searching for it”.

But it was a little too late for me to walk along looking for the guidebook, so I went to another bookshop. There was no guidebook here either, but I ran into a young English couple also in search of a cheap guide to Colombia. They had also been to the same bookshop that I was at earlier. We wished each other luck, and continued our quests only to meet again at the next bookshop.

Then we met again at the next bookshop, and then once again at the next one. This time, when leaving I said, “See you guys at the next bookshop”, and my words turned out to be prophetic for there they were again. Dear reader, lest you be confused, I should mention that these various bookshops are quite distant from each other, and are spread out over a large area in the “La Mariscal” region of Quito. So the probability of running into this pair time and again was really really really small! Finally, the English couple decided to invest in an expensive new Lonely Planet guide, while I settled for going to Colombia without any guidebook.

Colombia is a hot traveler destination, and guidebooks (even new ones) are hard to find. Bookshop owners love to keep these guides, as they get sold in no time. Frequently it is possible to exchange your old guidebook of the country you are presently in, for that of the next country you are going to, with other travelers at the border who are headed in the opposite direction. But these exchange opportunities are not guaranteed, so I could understand the English couple’s anxiety at not being able to find a guidebook easily. As for me, I have once again decided to trust the universe and rely on the kindness of strangers.

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